I'm the type of person who adores new beginnings. I love changing the calendar to a new month, turning to a fresh page in my planner, starting up a new blog, creating a list of goals for a new year. (Of course, I'm also the type of person who likes my books to be in neat, perfectly aligned stacks, and who straightens up my bed covers after someone's done sitting on the bed...) So I take the start of a new year rather seriously.
God blessed me tremendously in 2013 with the friendships and support necessary to finish writing my second manuscript, publish my first novel in both e-book and paperback formats, edit my first manuscript, officially start up my freelance editing & publicity business with actual clients, obtain my driver's license, and make my first solo road trip. But while it was a year full of wonderful joys, it was also a year full of very painful things: my grandpa's declining health (including a prolonged stay at the hospital and in rehab), stressful and hurtful family issues, and the loss of my godfather and my grandma.
To be honest, 2014 feels a little scary. We're selling my grandparents' house, which has been my "second home" since childhood. My grandpa might go to a home where he can get 24/7 professional care and assistance. I agreed to look for part-time work outside of the house to supplement my income for my business and writing, and also to see the world outside of my bedroom (an exciting but frightening prospect!). I have some happy publishing goals which I would love to meet, but otherwise, I'm just not sure what the year ahead will bring. I'm worried that a lot will change, and that the changes will continue to be hard for all of us. But I'm also worried that a lot won't change, because I realize that changes do need to be made, in my own life and for my family.
So here I am, at the threshold of a new year. While I've prepared some things - made a list of publishing goals, put up the new calendar, bought a 2014 planner, etc. - I feel like there are a lot more things I could have done to get myself ready to face the coming days. Yet the unknown remains. The difficult issues still have to be dealt with; they don't go away when the old year passes.
I can't look at the whole year ahead. It's too much pressure. While I appreciate the magnitude of the "newness," I need the mercy of new beginnings in a smaller size...
And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
God's mercies, His compassions, are new every morning. Every morning.
I'll always love a new month, a new year. And I need a big-picture perspective - but a year isn't it. I need a perspective as big as eternity: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23:6). But in that, I also need a perspective as small as a day, a moment, knowing that God is with me through every step.
My favorite devotional book (Safe in the Shepherd's Arms: Hope and Encouragement from Psalm 23 by Max Lucado) puts it this way:
God isn't behind me, yelling, "Go!" He is ahead of me, bidding "Come!" He is in front, clearing the path, cutting the brush, showing the way. Just before the curve, he says, "Turn here." Prior to the rise, he motions, "Step up here." Standing next to the rocks, he warns, "Watch your step here."
He leads us. He tells us what we need to know when we need to know it.
The discovery of David is indeed the message of Scripture - the Lord is with us. And since the Lord is near, everything is different. Everything!....
You may feel alone in the wilderness, but you are not. He is with you.
You and I are not alone in the wilderness of the year, in the crazy hills and valleys and curves of our day-to-day lives. His mercies are new every morning. I don't need to wait until the start of a new month or a new year to claim the refreshing of His mercies and grace. I don't need to feel like I've blown the whole week or the whole year if the transition was shaky or I wasn't fully prepared. Because the truth is, as many plans as I make and as many goals as I set, I just don't know what's coming. A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps (Proverbs 16:9). We have to plan ahead, yes, but we have to trust that God's will prevails, and that His will is good and holy in light of eternity. And sometimes - perhaps much of the time - we have to take one day at a time, one step at a time, and trust that God is at work.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.... Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16b-17
The "weight" of our hope for eternity isn't heavy. Jesus offers us a light burden (Matthew 11:30). So in the year ahead, I'll try not to take the change of the calendar too seriously. Instead, I'll continue on this all-important but grace-filled journey of trusting God's eternal perspective, and believing that He is still with me in each little step, offering new mercies every morning for the sake of His glory.
(Pictures taken at Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Summer 2013.)